The Bible & Theology Toward Christian Maturity
Christ in Comics
Graduate Students Help to Expand Manga Bible’s Global Reach
By Jeffrey Overstreet (firstname.lastname@example.org) | Photos by Luke Rutan
The stories told in Next Manga include three volumes of Old Testament stories and two of New Testament stories, spanning from Genesis to Paul's missionary journeys in Acts.
You might know The Avengers. You might have heard of The Fantastic Four. Now imagine Manga Force: a band of superheroes who powerfully illuminate the Bible’s greatest stories for readers in any language and any culture.
It’s not a comic book; it’s a true story.
In Japan, “manga” — or 漫画 — means “comic.” Developed in the late 19th century, manga has grown to represent one third of all printed material sold in Japan in the last 50 years; over 120 million copies of approximately 70,000 manga serials are purchased there each month, spanning genres from science fiction to romance. And manga’s popularity now spans the globe.
For 10 years, Next Manga — a nonprofit publishing company, has carried out the vision of manga enthusiasts who saw the potential of a vibrant, multivolume series of manga-style Bible stories. That vision is soaring: Next Manga has been translated into 27 languages so far, sending more than 3 million graphic novels and more than 4 million booklets into circulation around the world. The volumes bring the Bible’s compelling narratives to people who may never have opened a Bible.
“Many things commonly referenced in the marketplace or the courtroom have their origins in the Bible,” says P. Scott Cummins, Next Manga’s director of business development and its chief marketing officer.
Even Bible scholars may find that stories from Scripture seem fresh and new in these five volumes filled with dramatic illustrations: Noah’s ark seems small as a twig carried away on a frightening tide of destruction, while the Holy Spirit arrives in a thrilling rush of flames. Recently, the Next Manga team has decided to expand their distribution of these volumes in the general marketplace, where a voracious manga audience can discover them.
That’s where four students in Seattle Pacific’s MA in management with an emphasis in social and sustainable management (MAM-SSM) came in. Abraham Wairisal, Juliana Garcia ’13, Vy- Hoa Le ’13, and Lauren Cosgrove ’13 worked with Cummins to outline what he calls “Next Manga’s global relaunch.” They’re already working with advisors in Los Angeles and Chicago, a finance and marketing team in Seattle, principals in Tokyo and Hong Kong, and media partners in Sydney.
The increasing size of the Asian American population, says Le, explains why “there’s a much stronger presence of anime and Japanese culture in the U.S. in general.” Her team sees great potential in a variety of manga customers: “Anyone who would go to an anime convention. Anyone interested in science fiction. People who are learning English, but who want to read a book in their own language. And artists love these books, because Next Manga’s art is beautiful, colorful, and emotional.”
Cosgrove, who is focusing on Next Manga’s social-media marketing efforts, is excited about having found a new way to tell these stories. “The stories of the Bible have so much life in them,” she says, “so many nuances. I think they can be told very well through manga.”
With new translations including Czech, Slovak, Turkish, and Greenlandic, to be published in 2015, Garcia is excited about the international reach of the project. “At SPU, we say we want to engage the culture. But we want to engage cultures we might not ever have thought possible.”